Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Revenge Of The 80’s presents Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends

Back in the Fall of 1981, NBC premiered a brand new Marvel cartoon series starring everyone’s favorite web slinger Spider-Man along with two sidekicks/co-stars, namely Ice Man, formerly of the X-Men and a member of the Champions Of Los Angeles and a female mutant named Firestar. The funny thing was that Firestar didn’t really exist at all. The producers and animators at Sunbow Productions originally wanted the show’s lineup to consist of Spider-Man, Iceman and Johnny Storm, The Human Torch.

The problem was that the Human Torch character couldn’t be used in the Spider-Man series without the Fantastic Four license (which another animation studio had along with CBS), furthermore the Human Torch’s character (which originally was created by Marvel Comics and dated all the way back to 1939) was wrapped up in so much red tape that it couldn’t even be used in the 1978 Fantastic Four cartoon series...they instead replaced him with a robot named H.E.R.B.I.E. (WTF?).

In order to offset the loss, the producers decided to just create a female character with similar powers to the Human Torch. She could fly and emit fire from her hands as well as control flames. Since they were pressed for time looking for a template to draw her from, they essentially just copied her from drawings and renderings of Spider-Man character Mary Jane Watson (?). They called her Heatwave and gave her the name Angelica Jones, they later changed her codename to Firefly but settled on Firestar before scripts and voice acting was done.

To make things even weirder, they made Bobby Drake (Iceman) look exactly like Flash Thompson, Peter Parker’s college nemesis. It got so confusing that when they added Flash Thompson as a character on the series, they had to change his hair color to avoid he and Bobby Drake being confused for one another in the shows production cels.

Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends was an exciting show for the times because Marvel Comics and Stan Lee himself had a hand in the creation and production of the show. They decided to have a variety of Marvel Comics characters make guest appearances to celebrate the new series.

Over the cartoons 24 episode run the heroes faced regular Spider-Man enemies like Doctor Octopus, The Kingpin, The Sandman, Green Goblin, Mysterio, Electro, Shocker, Kraven and The Beetle. They also faced off against Magneto, Doctor Doom, The Red Skull, Loki, The Chameleon, Silver Samurai, The Scorpion and last but not least, The Juggernaut, bitch!

The show also featured cameos by some of the most heralded heroes in the Marvel Universe (sometimes only in their alter egos) as they fought alongside the X-Men, Captain America, Doctor Strange, Sunfire, Sub-Mariner and The Black Knight. Matt Murdock, Bruce Banner and Tony Stark (Tony for Maaaaayor!) appeared as themselves in separate episodes.
As cool as it was to see these characters animated for what was the first time ever back then was a mixed bag at best. Since the show aimed at young kids, many of the most popular characters in the Marvel Universe didn’t often get the chance to wild out and do their thing. Let me present some examples when Marvel characters completely failed to represent in this show’s short life:

In the episode entitled “7 Little Superheroes” , Namor The Sub-Mariner was just about to catch wreck on Chameleon when all of a sudden he gets sprayed with alcohol while he’s flying. He falls out of the sky and loses consciousness right away. He doesn’t do shit for the rest of the episode even though he was clearly the strongest character present.
Whatever, man!

In the immensely popular episode “A Fire-Star Is Born” (which also tells the origin of Firestar who doesn't become a real Marvel Comics character until her first appearance in X-Men #193 in 1985), we get our first look at some of the new X-Men appearing in animated form (namely Storm and Wolverine).

Storm catches it from The Juggernaut after hitting him with an ill thunderbolt but he shook that shit off like R. Kelly does to a sexual assault charge. Canada's best contribution to American culture besides DeGrassi (yeah, I said it!) Wolverine (who so far has only managed to impale some fruit on one of his claws shish kabob style in this episode) jumps into action, flips and lands on Juggernauts right forearm (cuz he’s tiny).

He swipes away at Juggy for a while before Juggernaut simply grabs Wolverine by his legs and flings his lil' ass toward a brick wall. Wolverine’s claws go directly into the wall and he tries to pull away to no avail. His last lines for the episode are “I..I’m stuck!”. Bulllllllshit!

This episode also features the music that only played when the X-Men appeared on the screen...this music has been jacked by several Hip Hop producers and flipped in beats, most notably by MF Doom for his Special Herbs instrumental series.

In the episode “The X Men Adventure”, The Spider Friends (go for it!) end up at Xavier’s School For Gifted Youngsters in order to face an enemy that has ties to Firestar. In this episode we encounter the new look X-Men again but this time with Storm, Sprite (Kitty Pride), Night Crawler (BAMF!!), Thunderbird (he died the next mission) and Collossus (I guess Wolverine was still stuck in the damn wall outside).

In this episode the the superpowered lineup should’ve been able to walk through their opposition but so much bullshit jumped off (like holograms of Colossus tricking Sprite and Nightcrawler showing up but teleporting but leaving behind no brimstone, etc.) that none of the heroes expect for Spidey and his pals could get their superpowered shit off (like getting caught in a fuckin' maze in their own house (?)).Since Sprite could phase through walls, Nightcrawler could teleport and Collossus and Thunderbird were both super strong a maze shouldn't have slowed them down at all. Man, what the fuck?

On this show I remember seeing Magneto, Doctor Doom, Sandman and The Red Skull catch L's all in the wackest ways possible. These were some super villians that would kill without know, how 50 Cent acts like he'll do on his albums but instead he reads the Robb Report and burns the midnight oil in his office in his Connecticut mansion instead (Time is money!).

I did think that the ill crime lab computer setup that they had in their crib was the jump off, though. They waited until Aunt May went upstairs to listen to some old Benny Goodman records (or go hard at it with a vibrator...who the fuck knows?) and it was crime fightin' time!

All the gang had to do was pull that golden football statue one time like Wyclef and the massive crime computer setup popped out with the quickness. There was NO WAY that apartment had enough power to run all of that shit! What’s even funnier was that for the longest no one knew how they got that sweet set wasn’t until halfway through the final season before they even made the episode “The Origin Of The Spider-Friends” which explained that Tony Stark footed the bill for it all to pay them back for doing him a solid on their first mission together.

This show isn’t officially on DVD but there are hella spots to get the whole series online if you look hard enough. Back in the days, the show was kinda dope, but nowadays when you see some of the lackluster/fogettable episodes of the series' run like “The Fantastic Mr. Frump”, “The Vengeance Of Loki”, “Swarm”, “The Education Of A Superhero (Videoman? FOH!)”, “The Transylvanian Connection” and “The Attack Of The Arachnoid” you’ll be like “This show fuckin’ sucked!”.

Marvel decided to fight off the cheese factor of these episodes by making a Marvel Comics hour starting in 1982 with a 13 episode season of the decidedly more serious , action oriented and violent show “The Incredible Hulk” to balance things out. This show was created to bring in a slightly older audience than Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends.

The series still airs to this day on Fox Kids Networks through their Jetix block of shows and I watch these episodes with my nephew. They only air a little more than half of ‘em , though. Weird, huh?



Aaron said...

i feel old

lol @ HERBIE

my dude has a ton of marvel related cartoons. i should try to grab them up

Anonymous said...

Me an you can roll anytime D, you nailed that shit. I loved that cartoon. Let's not forget Wolverine's AUSTRAILIAN accent! And you're right about DeGrassi too. I watched the old one and just started watchin the new one! (Yeah! And?...)